I recently moderated a panel at the Ward's Spring Training Conference on using the Internet to market your fixed operations department.

The panelists were Les Silver of MPi, Neal East of XTime, Ray Fenster of Lindsay Automotive Group and Bob Horn of Firkins Automotive Group.

They provided several ideas for using the fixed operations department as a way to set your dealership apart from the competition.

One thing is clear: Your website can be the medium to position your fixed operations superiority in your market.

It's your story of why you are the power to contend with. You have the assets. Use them!

Most dealer websites have the following:

  1. Schedule a service appointment page. Usually, this is an email form, but some of the more forward-thinking dealers use tools such as XTime or Time Highway that integrate directly into the DMS system and lets the customer set an appointment in real time.
  2. Order a part or accessory.
  3. Service specials. Note: Make sure you update these regularly, even if it's just changing the date. There are few things worse than an expired coupon or special on your website.
  4. Recall information.
  5. Ask the expert.
  6. Meet our staff.
  7. Quick service.

These things are important, but we need to start thinking more creatively.

If your website and pages are the same as everyone else, your operation is viewed as just another dealership service department.

The following are suggestions of potential strengths to tout online and off.

Technical Staff

The typical service department has reduced their technical staff to nothing more than an ID number on a repair order. Technicians often are referred to by this number and have no identity in the eyes of the customer.

Yet technicians might be your dealership's greatest strength. I have met technicians who have more than $50,000 invested in tools. What a commitment! Add to that, the continuing education. Some technicians have more education than doctors. They aren't grease monkeys any more.

How many vehicles has your top gun serviced in his career?

Let's assume the following: the technician has been with you for 20 years, works 250 days a year and services eight cars a day since he or she started. That adds up to 40,000 cars serviced by one technician!

Is this not a sales point to communicate? Why not promote this asset on your website?

Have this technician do a short video interview explaining how he or she services the customer's car. They are not professional actors but that makes them more believable.

Service Advisors

Your service advisors are the face of your dealership. The website is a great way to promote and humanize them. Doing so may soften an angry or frustrated customer. Market your dealership as the place people want to do business with.

Consider having a video bio for each service advisor. Let your customers meet them online before meeting them in person.

Selling Convenience

Customers demand convenience. Your service department may do a good job providing it. But do you promote that on your website?

Try offering a time-centric statement or guarantee. For example, offer an oil and filter change in 16 minutes or it's free.

Quick service sells. It is a convenience to advertise and promote on your webpage.

Real online service scheduling will become a huge advantage in the near future, especially if it allows online payment for the service.

Make fixed operations part of your email newsletter campaigns. Experiment and learn what works for you.

Contact fixed operations consultant Lee Harkins at? 205-747-8305 or LeeSV40SW@aol.com.